×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Maddened by His Absence

Grief makes a Franco-American man do strange things in "Maddened by His Absence," the initially intriguing feature fiction debut of Gallic actress-turned-helmer Sandrine Bonnaire.

With:
With: William Hurt, Alexandra Lamy, Augustin Legrand, Jalil Mehenni, Matteo Trevisan, Francoise Oriane, Norbert Rutili. (French, English dialogue)

Grief makes a Franco-American man do strange things in “Maddened by His Absence,” the initially intriguing feature fiction debut of Gallic actress-turned-helmer Sandrine Bonnaire. Pic stars Bonnaire’s real-life partner from the 1990s, William Hurt, in a meaty role as a man returning to France eight years after the death of his child, and still consumed by the tragedy. If Hurt doesn’t quite pulloff a Kristin Scott Thomas, it can be blamed more on the writing than on his impeccable, mostly French-language perf. Francophone arthouses will sign on, though the screenplay problems will make it a tougher sell overseas.

Pic’s early going, in short, extremely clipped scenes, suggests that time can’t pass fast enough for Jacques (Hurt), who has come back to Gaul from the U.S. to deal with his French father’s funeral and inheritance. The middle-aged, Boston-based architect decides to take the opportunity to seek out French logistics worker Mado (Alexandra Lamy), with whom he fathered a child who died eight years earlier; he hasn’t been in contact with Mado since.

Not only is Jacques not over the loss of the boy; he still feels responsible for the accident that killed him. (His own father’s death, by comparison, seems to have no impact on him at all.) Mado, on the other hand, has moved on, forming a new family with Stephane (Augustin Legrand), with whom she has a young son, Paul (Jalil Mehenni).

By juxtaposing these two simple elements, and throwing in some solid early scenes that suggest the couple’s bond was a strong one, and that it was the tragic death of their child more than any fundamental relationship problem that drove them apart, Bonnaire, who also directed the feature docu “Her Name Is Sabine,” has quite the setup for a captivating psychological drama.

But her screenplay, co-written by Jerome Tonnerre (“My Best Friend”), doesn’t come up with anything more insightful than having Jacques see in Paul a substitute for what he has lost, which motivates him to secretly move into the basement of the apartment building of Mado’s new family. Absent any opportunity for deeper character insight, the only suspense of the story is generated by the question of how long Jacques can keep from being discovered.

Greatly aided by the beautifully lit chiaroscuro photography of Belgian d.p. Philippe Guilbert, leads Hurt, Lamy and little Mehenni let their expressive eyes do a lot of the talking, especially in the expository first half-hour, when Bonnaire leaves room for quite a few unspoken things to hover in the air. All three thesps bring more depth and nuance to the table than what must have been on paper, with Mehenni easily holding his own opposite Hurt and comic actress Lamy, working in a convincing dramatic register here (she’s probably best-known Stateside as the gorgeous wife of Jean Dujardin).

It’s a shame, then, that the pic doesn’t really take its characters and story anywhere interesting, and starts to feel overlong and repetitive before coming to a rather perfunctory close, with the character of Stephane particularly slighted.

Technically, the pic is slick.

Maddened by His Absence

France-Luxembourg-Belgium

Production: An Ad Vitam (in France) release of a Mon Voisin Prods., Mosaique Films, Iris Group presentation of a Mon Voisin Prods., Mosaique Films, Iris Prods., Iris Films production, in association with Canal Plus, Cine Plus, France 3 Cinema. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Dominique Besnehard, Michel Feller, Thomas Schmitt. Co-producers, Nicolas Steil, Jesus Gonzalez. Directed by Sandrine Bonnaire. Screenplay, Bonnaire, Jerome Tonnerre.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Philippe Guilbert; editor, Svetlana Vaynblat; music, Andre Dziezuk; production designer, Denis Hager; costume designer, Magdalena Labuz; sound (Dolby Digital), Francois Dumont; assistant director, Sebastien Deux. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week -- Special Screenings), May 21, 2012. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: William Hurt, Alexandra Lamy, Augustin Legrand, Jalil Mehenni, Matteo Trevisan, Francoise Oriane, Norbert Rutili. (French, English dialogue)

More Film

  • With PGA win, 'Green Book' is

    Oscars: With PGA Victory, 'Green Book' Becomes Best Picture Frontrunner

    Save for a pair of recent back-to-back discrepancies in “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures has been a fairly reliable barometer for the annual Oscar season outcome. At least, ever since both the PGA and film Academy expanded their top categories, sharing the [...]

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. “When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber’ you never expect to get an award,” [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. He then moved to MGM where he served as exec VP of distribution. There he [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content